Of course, we’ve had talented women involved in bluegrass since the early days, but not to the extent we enjoy them today. In the next few months we’ll see new releases from Rhonda Vincent, Dale Ann Bradley, Alecia Nugent and newcomer Sarah Jaroz. We’ll be doing a piece soon on the new Bearfoot CD, but first we want to highlight a talented young singer from California who has a bright future in bluegrass music.
Patuxent Music has released Look For Me, the debut recording from Angelica Grim, which features her strong and distinctive voice on a set of 12 songs, supported by an all-star backing band. The maturity and confidence you hear in her singing might surprise you, until you learn a bit more about her background.
At age 19, Angelica has been singing bluegrass for as long as she can remember. She had the good fortune to be born into a musical family, and to find encouragement and support from bluegrass organizations where she grew up.
In 1993 my family won tickets to the Grass Valley Fathers Day festival, and we’ve gone every year since. My first time onstage was 1995 with the Kids On Bluegrass program at Grass Valley. I participated in that for 12 years. I sang as a hobby mostly until I was about 13, then picked up the guitar to back myself up when I sang.
One year at Grass Valley I went to a vocal workshop that Rhonda Vincent was teaching and she asked for a volunteer to help demonstrate harmony. I volunteered, and after the workshop she asked if I would like to sing harmony on a song for her evening set. I of course said yes, and that week I decided that I wanted to pursue music professionally.
I got involved in the California Bluegrass Association when I was about 14. I started going to board meetings and things and eventually they appointed me as their Teen Ambassador. I went to festivals and told teens about the CBA and about bluegrass. I also emceed at Grass Valley and at SuperGrass. A couple years later they appointed me to the Talent Advisory Group for the Grass Valley festival.”
Angelica has moved away from California, and is nominally located near Buffalo, NY, though she spends almost all her life on the road. She travels with The Doerfels – she and TJ Doerfel are man and wife – and is often featured as a guest vocalist on their shows. They expect to relocate soon to Branson, MO.
Look For Me was recorded in Rockville, MD and Angelica was able to draw on the rich bluegrass talent pool in the greater Washington, DC area.
“My good friend Frank Solivan II produced the cd, and he helped me choose a lot of the material. The core band was Chris Walls on bass, Frank Solivan II on mandolin, John Miller on guitar, and Mike Munford on banjo. We wanted a more natural sound for the record and all of them have played together quite a bit. Michael Cleveland was an easy choice on fiddle and he has the more traditional sound we were going for. I also had my favorite fiddle player Nate Grower play on a few songs. Ive been a fan of the Navy band Country Current since I was a little girl so it was an honor to have Frank, Wayne Taylor, and Keith Arneson sing and play on the CD. The coolest part by far was to have Bill Emerson and Mike Auldrige play on my record. I grew up listening to both of them and it was an awesome experience meeting them.
The songs Runaway Ramp and The Letter were meant to be sort of slower and groovy, but we bluegrassed them. I had actually never heard The Letter before (I guess I’m too young). I Still Miss Someone and She’s More To Be Pitied were songs that I had known for a while but never really thought about recording. We basically did a lot of sitting around the living room playing songs until we found one that sounded good.”
The title track is a song that Angelica wrote, showcasing both her singing and songwriting chops.
Look For Me – Listen now: [http://media.libsyn.com/media/thegrasscast/look_for_me.mp3]
“Look For Me is a song that I wrote in the middle of the night a couple years ago. I wrote it for my older sister. I didn’t really think much of it until I played it for my husband and he encouraged me to start performing it.”
The song also shows what an impact Lynn Morris has had on her singing.
“Lynn Morris is my all time favorite! Danny Paisley has had a big influence on my singing as well. I also like Sonya Issacs, Dale Ann Bradley, Laurie Lewis and Kathy Kallick. Ginny Hawker is another one of my favorites. There are so many I can’t even begin to list them all. I guess you could say that every musician influences me in some way.”
Another of Angelica’s influences is Hazel Dickens, and two of her songs found their way onto the CD.
West Virginia My Home – Listen now: [http://media.libsyn.com/media/thegrasscast/west_va.mp3]
“I’ve been a Hazel fan for a long time – she is one of my favorite singer/songwriters and I sing quite a few of her songs. I love her songwriting and the ways she rips your heart out when she sings. For some reason I was really drawn to this one and knew I needed to record it. Even though I’m not from West Virginia and have only been there a couple times, I can relate to leaving home and missing certain things.”
It looks like the die is cast for this talented young lady. Married to a full time bluegrass artist, and playing dates now under her name, Angelica is poised for a career in music.
She and TJ even met cute, at IBMA, of course.
A couple weeks after IBMA I flew out to New York and played a few shows with the Doerfels. It all snowballed from there and I kept flying out to play shows with them. TJ and I got married on June 6th of 2008.”
The Doerfels’ sound is very modern, though they record and perform with the standard bluegrass instruments. I was curious whether Angelica and T.J. ever have conflicts over musical styles, since hers is so traditional by comparison.
“All the time! Mostly when we’re driving… he can’t stand to listen to Flatt and Scruggs too long and I can’t handle Bela Fleck for more than a couple songs. It actually works out well because I’m a fan of more contemporary music – I just don’t like to play it.”
Look At Me is a terrific CD, and a fine introduction for bluegrass lovers not familiar with this powerful vocal stylist. There are more audio samples from the album on Angelica’s web site, and you can hear bits from all 12 tracks in iTunes.
Do yourself a favor and give her music a listen.